From 20th October, 2010….

Found Studio 54 or Kunsthause Tacheles [] today, a collective based organising and arts space where artists autonomously operate their own spaces. Quite a place, featuring found object, steel and lighting installations throughout and a totally DIY culture at work. Each space in the gallery building is run by a different artist or collective, and often has artworks for sale, live music and visual installations. Out the back of the two cafes that operate is an outdoor events space, with another gallery tucked into the corner. Spent a couple of nights here, as there was something happening every night it seems. Fires to keep warm by and randoms to talk to are a staple of this place, as is the multiple places that you can hang out, including the galleries which seem to be open until pretty late. As far as I can tell, this place used to be a squat and is now “legitimate” but does not pay much rent. There is a campaign being run by the organisers to have the government recognise it as an important cultural location and art [kunst] house by donating the building to the collective to ensure its longevity.

The area we’re staying in is called Nukolln and is populated heavily by Middle Eastern migrants – contentious at the moment in Germany, with the Chancellor making a public statement the other day about multiculturalism being “dead” and a failure. Media analysts suggest that she made this statement, a move from her previously espoused support for the concept of building a multicultural society, to head off extreme right politicians from wedging her. Some of her comments following this speech suggests she is trying to reframe this as being a comment on the way people perceive multiculturalism, rather than being a statement against it. Similar, in Australian terms, to the way in which Hanson influenced mainstream politics toward the right.

There is a definite swing to the right going on seemingly throughout Europe. In Holland the government aims to “clean up” the city’s image by reducing the number of coffee shops [ganga cafes], brothels and squats, all amidst a twenty year development plan that reeks heavily of gentrification, while Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom, the third largest party in Holland receiving 16% of the vote, continues to declare racist policy, particularly against Islam and Middle Eastern communities and migrants, as legitimate and appropriate. While you may think that 16% is not THAT significant, the leading two parties received 20% each…. In the recent Hungarian general elections the fascist right party Jobbik also received 17% of the vote. This is significant considering their language regarding blaming Jewish people for the issues that Hungary presently faces, which are considerable within an EU context. It’s also significant because of the right wing members of the main two party’s, particularly the successful Fidesz Party, similarly blame Jewish culture mainly for economic problems the country faces. It’s ALSO significant because of Hungary’s past…

In the UK, the Tory’s are back in power and continue to talk about all members of society needing to shoulder the burden in helping Britain back to economic prosperity. This doesn’t seem to extend to the wealthy capitalists however, as banks, similarly around the world, continue to make record profits following the $700bn capital injection received in response to the so called Global Financial Crises less than two years ago. While not the language of far right politics, this is economic rationalism at its “best”, veiled with a pragmatic denial that the economic situation has been created by these same analysts, policy makers and free market apologists.

In France, Sarkozy may not be far right but most certainly conservatively centre left at best. AT BEST. I find this difficult, and see him as right wing conservative, a believer in economic rationalism and neo liberalism. Sarkozy’s attitude to immigration when he was Jacques Chirac’s Minister of the Interior and his alleged collusion with the racist extreme right-wing are ever present, his position unlikely to have considerably changed. Like most conservative politicians, particularly party leaders, he is acutely aware that espousing egalitarian ideals is a necessity, while supporting big capital and free trade, if for no other reason than to reduce the impact of left leaning parties on the compassionate populace. Recent expulsions of Romany peoples from France, despite their EU citizen status shows the governments unashamed interest in using marginalised groups for political gain, to appear tough on those who are “flaunting the system” and who apparently receive benefit off the back off those who work hard for their money. Again, dividing people in times of economic difficulty, by appealing to those with security and who feel threatened. Sound familiar Australia?

These are the strongest electoral results for far right parties since the 1990’s following the fall of communism in the eastern block and signals an ominous future for Europe given the present economic and social problems being faced. Blaming the poorest and perceived “weakest” has throughout history been an easy way to pit people against each other and to justify despicable government policy.

In other news, less political news, I also ventured to find an indoor basketball court – the weather wasn’t helping with playing outdoors. The Berlin train system is so easy to use – not as easy as the Tube or Budapest metro, not as much signage but still clear enough for an English only ignorant like me. I found the venue really easily, despite the odd street numbering that runs up one side and then back down the other, meaning that 1 and 2 could be next door to each other, with 100 across the road. Finding the hall, I excitedly crept in but couldn’t hear any bounching balls. Reaching the door, I saw a group of guys using ¾ of the court to play handball, using a massive tennis ball. They wouldn’t share the court, saying they’d booked it and my playing would disturb them.

So, back to the pad to get ready for Krush instead. So, the Krush gig…..we didn’t leave until late, anticipating he wouldn’t come on much before midnight. Unfortunately the venue was tricky to find. Let’s just say that Tim’s directions from his net search weren’t as comprehensive as they could have been! In the rain, from the train station, we walked for a while, then caught taxi. The driver had no idea, taking us way past the venue then calling his station to be guided by someone who instructed him to a spot where he was sure it should be – but still we couldn’t see any club. Tim was sure it was further on down the street, so we went on foot again, through the pouring rain but to no avail. No club. No Krush. So, we came back again, to a hotel at the spot the driver had dropped us to find internet access to look up the address. While Tim was looking, I asked the concierge and he pointed across the road to a rusty gate – “that’s the entrance to Maria” he says in fairly good English… and it is….a rusty gate, no signs, no point in feeling bad bout not seeing this joint. We walked in to incredulous people on the till. “It’s his last song,” they smile, but they still checked that our name WAS on the door before crossing us off and inviting us inside.

It was all good, arriving to Queen’s classic We Will Rock You and Michael’s Billy Jean, Krush’s tribute to his early career according to Tim, and how he usually finishes his sets. After he finished, going out with a massive drum n bass inspired drum solo mash up, we were having a beer at the bar, Tim musing over the mess in missing the gig, having a laugh about it, when Itettsu, Krush’s manager, invites us out the back. Tim is supporting him in Sydney, so there was a connection there, not just random fan selection. After a couple of beers, conversation and joking about the likeness of the painting behind Krush to Mt Fujiyama with a train cruising past it and how the club had [of course] painted it just for him, we checked out and after realising the trains had finished, cabbed back to the pad. Interesting night, great adventure all round.